Labour played big role in Langley elections

Big labour targeted spending towards candidates in Langley City and Township, and was remarkably successful at getting them elected.

Organized labour was more involved in the Langley municipal elections than is usual here.

While campaign disclosure forms were still being filed as this is written (the deadline was Monday), several that have already been filed provide some key insights into how labour views Langley Township and Langley City councils, and the Langley Board of Education.

The Canadian Labour Congress mounted an expensive campaign across B.C., totalling just under $149,000. It promoted candidacies across the province. Curiously in Langley, almost all its efforts went to supporting five candidates for the Board of Education (all of whom won).

Only one candidate for the two councils, Paul Albrecht (who ran in the City), received CLC support. He is president of Canadian Union of Public Employees local in the Township.

Murray Jones, who ran for Township council and is president of a CUPE local in Abbotsford, did not get support from the CLC.

The five candidates supported by the CLC for the board of education were Wendy Johnson, Cecelia Reekie and Megan Dykeman in the Township, and Candy Ashdown and Rob McFarlane in the City.

Langley Teachers Association also got involved in the campaign, spending $3,557 in the Township. It spent over $1,100 in the City on advertising for winning candidates Rob McFarlane and Candy Ashdown.

In the Township, the LTA supported Johnson, Dykeman and Reekie, along with unsuccessful candidates John McKendry and Douglas Smuland, who ran a very low-profile campaign and does not live in Langley.  Most of its spending was on a newsletter ($2,248) sent to teachers living in the Township.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, local 4550, spent $5,551.80, with $5,000 of that coming from national union headquarters in Ottawa.

The IAFF local president Andy Hewitson was in front of Township council at its last meeting, asking that another eight paid firefighters (and union members) be hired.

The IAFF local spent $1,622.88 on advertising and another $2,500.95 on signs and brochures. It put up a number of signs for candidates it backed in the election — six of whom were elected. They are Charlie Fox, Grant Ward, Bob Long, Kim Richter, Steve Ferguson and Michelle Sparrow. Sparrow, elected in her first try, is married to a Township firefighter.

The union also backed Mel Kositsky’s bid for mayor and unsuccessful candidates Rebecca Darnell and Dan Sheel. Sheel is a Surrey firefighter and was one of a number of firefighters from other communities who were active in lobbying Township council to institute a paid fire department.

Unions have every right to take part in election campaigns. Because so few people vote, their efforts often pay off spectacularly, as they target their members and others who actually vote. When close to 80 per cent don’t take part, targeted campaigns can do wonders.

The Times will publish more complete details about the campaign disclosures in its Thursday edition.